How to Buy CBD: Beginner’s Guide

[Canniseur: Many people are curious about CBD. If this includes you, all your questions are answered here.]

One term in the cannabis industry that has been getting a lot of buzz recently is cannabidiol, or CBD.

CBD is a cannabinoid, a component of cannabis, and produces no psychoactive effects. It has been gaining attention for its potential ability to treat symptoms of anxiety, insomnia and stress, among others.

As more and more CBD products are being introduced, it can be easy for consumers to get lost in a sea of new terms and options.

Should you go for full spectrum or a CBD isolate? Hemp CBD or cannabis extract? Capsule, tincture or smoke it? What dose should you take?

We’re here to help you buy CBD, so read on for a detailed beginner buyer’s guide.

Hemp CBD vs. Cannabis CBD

CBD can be extracted from either hemp, a variety of the cannabis sativa plant that doesn’t contain THC, or from cannabis flower that is bred to contain a high percentage of CBD.

Companies began extracting CBD from hemp in larger numbers after the U.S. passed the Farm Bill in late 2018 that removed the plant from the country’s list of controlled substances.

This allowed the legal creation of hemp CBD products, while CBD products from cannabis are still not legal federally in the U.S. since the country has classified cannabis as a Schedule I drug.

Compared to cannabis, hemp is a CBD lightweight. The plant typically contains around 3.5 per cent CBD, compared to cannabis strains that have up to 18-20 per cent CBD. High CBD cannabis strains include Charlotte’s Web, Harlequin, Avidekel or ACDC.

Hemp also does not have as strong an “entourage effect” as cannabis flower due to the former containing little to no terpenes – oils in cannabis that give its smell and taste.

The entourage effect is a theory that cannabis’ many components, such as its terpenes and other cannabinoids such as CBG, CBN and CBC, interact with each other in a synergistic way that aid its effects.

However, cannabis flower that is high in CBD will likely also contain some THC, which will cause a psychoactive effect that you won’t find in hemp-derived CBD products. U.S. law says hemp CBD products must have less than 0.3 per cent THC – not enough to feel.

Another thing to be aware of is that hemp is a natural “bioaccumulator,” meaning it is good at drawing toxins out of the ground.

While hemp has been used to clean up toxic spills, this trait does provide the risk toxins may make their way into hemp CBD products.

If going for a hemp CBD product, try to get one that is USDA-certified if it is made in the U.S. This means that the U.S. government gave the product organic certification, which ensures that producers have not used a prohibited substance in their production for at least three years.

Check this database for USDA-certified CBD companies.

Also check where the hemp comes from. Colorado has a robust hemp program where the state performs spot-tests in the field to see if any illegal pesticides were used. Be wary of hemp grown overseas, as it may not be subject to any government testing.

Isolate vs. Full Spectrum

When shopping for CBD products, you may notice the terms “full spectrum” or “isolate” on labels.

Full spectrum extract means that the product is not CBD alone, but contains other components of cannabis such as other cannabinoids.

Isolate means CBD alone was extracted.

As mentioned earlier, it has been found that CBD’s therapeutic effects come through more when it is interacting with other components of cannabis, such as its terpenes and cannabinoids, in what is known as the “entourage effect.”

A 2018 study found that more epilepsy patients reported improvements in frequency of seizures treated with CBD-rich extracts (318/447, 71 per cent) that contained other “phytocompounds” versus those treated with purified CBD (81/223, 36 per cent).

The study concluded that “CBD-rich extracts seem to present a better therapeutic profile than purified CBD, at least in this population of patients with refractory epilepsy.”

To be sure you are getting a full spectrum product, look out for a Certificates of Analysis (CoA). It verifies that a company has laboratory-tested its products and should give a full breakdown of the cannabinoids present and their amounts in the product.

Smoking CBD

As CBD gains in popularity, companies are coming out with creative ways to consume the drug, each with their own pros and cons.

One way to gain the effects of CBD quickly is to inhale it, such as by vaporizing or smoking CBD-rich cannabis.

Inhaling CBD allows it to enter your bloodstream through your lungs and you should feel its effects within minutes, and it should at least half an hour, depending on how much was consumed.

One option for vaporizing is to get a CBD vape pen that uses concentrated CBD oil for a quick uptake that creates vapour almost instantaneously, without waiting for the flower to heat up.

If going with a vape pen, try to avoid ones that contain CBD cartridges that use propylene glycol as a thinning compound to create the CBD oil.

Propylene glycol is also used in nicotine e-cigarettes and at high temperatures can degrade to formaldehyde, which has been linked to cancer, asthma and low birth weight. Look out for CBD vape pens that have “solvent-free oils.”

CBD Edibles

CBD is also being produced in a number of different edibles, from gummies and drinks to tinctures, oils and capsules.

Consuming CBD edibles is more of a slow-burn than smoking or vaping, as the effects may not arrive until at least half an hour to an hour after consumption.

However, the effects will likely last longer than inhaling – up to five or six hours.

You may have come across CBD tinctures or oils before. They often come in a small bottle that has a dropper as a lid.

CBD tinctures and oils contain CBD extracted from either cannabis flower or hemp plants. Tinctures are alcohol or vegetable glycerin-based cannabis extracts that tend to be less concentrated than oil.

The CBD can be extracted using either pressurized carbon dioxide (CO2) or a solvent, such as ethanol or butane.

CO2 extraction is quickly being preferred in the cannabis industry given that it preserves the purity of the oil with little risk of contaminants.

Ethanol can destroy plant waxes, which may include health benefits, and butane may leave dangerous residues in the final product.

Tinctures and oils are often taken sublingually, meaning under your tongue, which can make them a speedy way to absorb THC without inhaling. You just place a drop or two under your tongue and hold it for 20-30 seconds, so it will enter your bloodstream. It usually kicks into action 15-30 minutes after consuming.

Oils, especially if derived from hemp, may have a grassy flavour that some may not like, whereas tinctures have less of a concentrated taste. Both can be mixed into food to mask the taste, or capsules are a good flavourless alternative.

Companies are also developing CBD drinks, called drinkables, which also have a speedy uptake and can mask the cannabis flavour well. Expect to see more and more drinkables on the market soon, such as coffees, teas and flavoured water.

You can also use CBD as a topical that you rub on your skin to reduce inflammation and ease muscle pain. A topical is the most effective way to use CBD to treat localized pain or inflammation.

CBD topicals mix CBD extract with a fat such as beeswax or coconut oil, which helps the CBD penetrate your skin. However, it often needs to be used liberally to feel its effects as skin does not absorb cannabinoids very well.


Finding the proper dosage for CBD can be a tricky task.

Although it is now legal to create CBD products from hemp in the U.S., as of this writing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not created a Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) for CBD, meaning it does not have an official serving size.

It gets more confusing given that CBD products come in many different shapes and sizes, as discussed above.

In addition, different bodies may absorb CBD differently due to such factors as weight, diet, metabolism or age.

You may be getting tired of hearing this when it comes to cannabis, but the best advice for consuming CBD products is to start low and go slow.

If using a CBD tincture or oil, take one drop a day for the first few days to see how it feels. If there is no adverse reaction, then consider upping the dose to two drops per day with time intervals between and see how it feels. If no effect is felt, then consider slowly increasing the dose.

Dr. Dustin Sulak, a leading clinician in the application of medical cannabis, told Greencamp in our dosing guide to start with 2.5 mg of CBD spread throughout the day, then to increase the dose 2.5 mg every day if positive effects aren’t being felt until you reach the desired therapeutic relief.

However, the dose can change depending on what you are using CBD to treat.

For example, sleep disorders or epilepsy likely will require a higher dose of CBD than chronic pain. Since research is still being done in the area, we cannot say a definitive number for each symptom.

Whichever way you consume CBD, be sure to check the product’s labelling that should indicate the concentration of the drug to aid in dosing. Try to get products that say how much CBD is not only in the whole bottle, but in each dose.

Beware that because the industry is still new and there aren’t many regulations in place, some oils, such as for vapes, could be very high in CBD concentration.

The good news is that it is very hard, if not impossible, to overdose on CBD. A 2017 study concluded that humans can tolerate CBD in doses up to 1,500 mg.


Research is still being done on how CBD could be of benefit, but some studies done already have indicated its potential uses.

A 2015 study found that CBD oil could be used to treat panic disorder and anxiety disorders, while a 2011 study found CBD helped decrease patients’ anxiety before public speaking.

CBD has been found to increase overall sleep amounts in an experiment on rats, and to reduce insomnia.

Studies have also shown that CBD can reduce pain and inflammation, making it a good alternative to opioids that can be dangerously addictive, and it can be useful for nausea, which can be of use to chemotherapy patients. Reducing chronic pain has been shown to improve sleep from those who suffer it.

As mentioned earlier, CBD has been found to be effective in treating epilepsy. The FDA in 2018 approved the drug Epidiolex that contains CBD to treat two rare and severe forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndrome, for children two years of age or older. It was the first FDA-approved drug that contains a substance derived from cannabis.

The Wrap-up

The CBD industry is sure to grow as companies create new products and consumers’ tastes evolve. It is important to be informed of the different factors when purchasing CBD products and to approach it with caution, as regulations are still being formed. But if you do your research, there are benefits to CBD that we hope you enjoy.

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